DENVER — The Denver Broncos, defeated by the New York Giants, 39-20, in Sunday's Super Bowl, were greeted as heroes upon returning home Monday.
Thousands of fans gathered along downtown Denver's 17th Street to cheer the Broncos. One sign proclaimed, "You're still No. 1 with us." Another banner read, "Denver By A Mile."
"The Broncos didn't lose, the Giants just happened to win," another sign read.
The Broncos were guests of honor for a ticker-tape parade and rally on a sunny afternoon with temperatures in the 50s.
Police estimated the crowd at 100,000.
"The spirit that started this year will bring us back next year to the very top. We love the Broncos," Gov. Roy Romer said at the rally.
"We love you," Bronco owner Pat Bowlen told the fans. "You're the greatest fans in the whole wide world.
"We'll return, we'll be back. We will have the world championship. I promise you that," he said.
Coach Dan Reeves said: "Last week, when we left . . . we had tremendous expectations. It didn't turn out the way we would like, and anytime you come up short, it hurts.
"But this is a special football team . . . and I think we'll be back. I know that our players felt very down yesterday. I know that I felt down. I had no idea the reception we would get tonight when we came back to Denver. You people are great. We thank you very much and God bless you."
Charleen Dowdell, 30, of Aurora, arrived hours early with her husband and four children, all wearing Broncos shirts.
"I made the kids wear orange every day since the Cleveland day (Jan. 11, when the Broncos beat Cleveland, 23-20, in overtime in the AFC title game)," she said. "I thought it would bring them luck."
Henriett Chavez, 60, of Westminster, said she's confident the Broncos will be back in the Super Bowl.
"The only thing I'm sad about is that Tom Jackson (a veteran linebacker) probably won't go again and he's kind of special."